OXFORD -- Friends and admirers of the late Richard Beards gathered to honor his memory and accomplishments at a reception on Sunday.

Beards, a founder of and contributor to the Oxford Arts Alliance died at 78 on Dec. 20 after a short illness.

He taught literature at Temple University and worked there up until his shortly before his death. He also and operated a popular used book store and art gallery in Oxford.

'He left a huge legacy of collected books and artists. He will be very much missed in the community. He was a spark of creativity and arts,' said author Mark Bowden, who oversaw the lecture series with Beards, which they founded.

Bowden added that Beards was creatively disorganized. 'You could wander around his store not knowing what you were looking for and find something,' he said.

The leadership of the alliance set aside two hours in the afternoon for guests to share memories and consume refreshments. But as soon as the doors opened at 4 p.m., people filled the room at the Alliance gallery and spoke glowingly of Beards and his accomplishments.

Mostly they recalled his love of music, literature and the fine arts. Many spoke of his energy and his keen interest in spreading culture in the community.

One guest at the reception was Laura Tamakoshi, an anthropologist who said Beards invited her to present a guest lecture at one of his classes to give relevant information about a book they were discussing.

Another guest recalled that Beards was adamant about saving the local Girl Scout Camp Tweedale from closing.

Reenie Chase, an artist who lived next door to Beards, said when she heard of his passing, she had a desire to paint a picture that captured his personality. She got out a photo she had taken of him and created the piece. It was sitting framed in the corner for all to see.

She reflected on the admiration she had for Beards saying, 'He always told me to pursue my painting. He said 'That's who you are.''

Beards was a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Washington. He taught at Temple for 49 years, spending some time in Lund, Sweden as an instructor as well.

He is survived by his wife, Virginia, who friends said plans to continue operating his book store.

Last year, the arts alliance established a scholarship in Beards' name to be awarded to students he plan to pursue music, performance, architecture and the fine arts. Jay Eaton, another founding member of the alliance said Beards was thrilled to see the first one awarded.

During the Sunday's reception, information was available about the fund to continue the scholarship, calling it 'the educational legacy of Richard Beards.'

Those who dined and recalled Beards on Sunday did so surrounded by the works of Richard Remenick and Giovanni Casadei, whose paintings are lining the walls throughout the month of April. Both artists have ties to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts. That show was unveiled on Friday during the First Friday event that invites guests into stores, galleries and restaurants on the first Friday of each month.

Eaton mentioned that the alliance is expanding its offerings by encouraging the business in town to take part in a new event called 'Third Friday on Third Street.' He said they seem interested in participating in opening up their stores on the third Friday of each month and displaying various forms of art that in some way showcases what they have to offer.

The Oxford Arts Alliance offers many courses, camps, shows and special events throughout the year. The annual Garden Party at Ware Presbyterian Village is a major fund raiser.

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